Fifty-four percent of federal video surveillance data goes unanalyzed, resulting in untapped potential to prevent crime, theft and terrorism, according to a new report titled “The Video Vortex,”produced by Alexandria, Va.-based MeriTalk. The opportunity for intelligence is massive, the group summarized. By 2020, video surveillance is expected to reach approximately 3.3 trillion captured video hours globally, it estimated.

MeriTalk is a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT. Its report, sponsored by EMC Corp., is based on results of a survey of 151 federal decision makers — evenly split between physical security and IT managers — that looks at video surveillance across federal IT, and the opportunities for agencies to enhance the value of their video data assets. If Uncle Sam only catches half of the movie, he will have challenges following the plot and leveraging the information to achieve the goal of improved security, MeriTalk claimed in its press release announcing “The Video Vortex.”

“The numbers say it all – the key to a more secure country is improved collaboration”

The stakes are high to make the most of video data, as 99 percent of feds believe that video surveillance technology will play a significant role in their ability to prevent crime, theft, and terrorism over the next five years, according to the study. With the quantity of video data exploding, the potential for enhanced situational awareness and better intelligence is massive — but only if it is analyzed, MeriTalk concluded.

Agencies are using video data to obtain critical insights. Survey respondents flag the most common applications for video surveillance: 57 percent utilize the data to monitor suspicious behavior, 49 percent use it to monitor traffic, and 38 percent harness it for anomaly detection. Looking to the future, feds see vast potential in increased integration of video and big data analytics, including instant event search, facial recognition, and inter-agency real-time surveillance.

In an effort to maximize video insights, feds see significant promise in one key area — collaboration. There is clearly a strong connection between capturing video and making it available as an enterprise data asset across agencies; that is where physical security and IT need to get on the same screen. That’s why 79 percent of those surveyed believe their agency needs to improve collaboration between physical security and IT in order to be successful. At present, less than half of civilian agencies (47 percent) have collaboration as part of their Standard Operation Procedure (SOP). DoD is significantly more likely to ensure this partnership at 78 percent. As a first step, feds need a consensus on who is in charge: 76 percent of physical security managers currently see video surveillance as a collaboration, but few IT managers agree (33 percent).

The study shows that working together is a critical piece of the plot, indicating that agencies that require collaboration are significantly ahead. They are more prepared for the influx of data (81 percent versus 24 percent), more likely to analyze at least 50 percent of their data (63 percent versus 47 percent), and more than twice as likely to operate an edge-to-core platform architecture for surveillance (92 percent versus 44 percent).

“The numbers say it all — the key to a more secure country is improved collaboration,” said Michael Gallant, senior director, Video Surveillance, EMC Corp. “Physical security and IT need to avoid being ships passing in the night, and join each other at the helm. A more collaborative approach will make agencies more prepared, and more likely to analyze video surveillance data to derive actionable insights.”

As agencies attach more sensors to the network — from cameras on people (civilian: 44 percent; defense: 75 percent) to cameras on drones (civilian: 17 percent; defense: 78 percent), video volumes are growing faster than other network traffic. In order to reap significant mission benefits from this data, IT infrastructures must be able to keep up with the unprecedented growth. Nearly all feds say their agency’s IT infrastructure is not ready, identifying three key required investment areas: storage (91 percent), computing power (89 percent), and personnel (84 percent). A step in the right direction — three-quarters say their agency’s IT department is integrating surveillance data into a central repository for analysis.

“More than the same old movie, video empowers Uncle Sam — whether it’s identifying trends or catching the bad guys,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “Teamwork and innovation are the keys to ensuring the story is happily ever after, rather than a horror movie.”

“The Video Vortex” report is based on an online survey of 151 U.S. federal IT and physical security decision-makers in January 2015. The report has a margin of error of +/- 7.95 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. To download the full study, visit: